Mutti takes the fast track to new gig at Hard Rock Casino
SCENE & HEARD: Raj Mutti's parents introduced him to his first racetrack when he was younger than the three-year-olds who run in the BC Derby. It's a common story at the track: Kids fall inescapably in love with horses at an early age and spend the rest of their adult lives trying to make ends meet in one of the toughest livelihoods known to mankind.
The backstretch of every major racetrack is a living, breathing community unto its own. Hastings Racecourse is no exception. Grooms sleep in the barns; trainers are on site at 4 a.m.; horses are galloping shortly after the stock market opens and gin rummy games off in a corner of the cook shack are well underway before the major morning newscasts hit the airwaves.
Mutti eventually became the youngest and most successful general manager of any bigtime racetrack in North America. He started as a 16-yearold busboy in the restaurant at Hastings, graduated with honours from a racetrack management program at the University of Arizona and returned to Hastings to work his way through promotions, marketing and food and beverage levels before being named GM at the age of 26.
After five intense years of working with horsemen, unions, other stakeholders, an overall racing staff of 450, media and everyday critics, Mutti thought it might be time for a career change.
At the age of 31, he was a prime prospect for professional recruitment agencies. Sure enough, there was external interest, but he opted to stay with the owners of Hastings Racecourse - Great Canadian Gaming Corporation - who didn't want to lose him and offered him the position of executive director at the new Hard Rock Casino Vancouver that is set to open this winter.
Some at the track will miss him; some will diss him. Raj learned a long time ago how to look at the odds and roll with the punches.
HERE 'N' THERE: Must be something in the August air. Mutti isn't the only young talent on the move in Vancouver's sports marketplace. After 14 years with the Canucks, TC Carling is leaving as vicepresident of communications and community partnerships to join Men's Health Initiative (MHI) as senior vice-president of communications and strategic partnerships. MHI will be transitioning from a provincial organization to a national entity in 2014, building awareness and impact programs that will improve the lives of men in Canada ... Jacqueline Blackwell has joined Grouse Mountain as public relations manager after eight years as communications co-ordinator with the B.C. Lions ... Ann Nikitiuk worked in corporate participation and events with the Vancouver Giants for the last four years and now teams up as community relations specialist with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
SHORT HOPS: Future baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker made it a family affair when he visited Nat Bailey Stadium as part of the Canadians' Superstar Series Tuesday. Dad Larry Sr. and brother Carey, the former New Westminster Bruins goaltender, joined the party.
END ZONE: The familiar hockey cry "Har-r-r-old" rang out at Vancouver Golf Club Wednesday when Harold Snepsts carded a hole-in-one on the 195-yard seventh hole with a four iron. It was his first ace at VGC after 28 years as a member and was witnessed by Cesare Maniago, Gerry McIlhargey and head pro Randy Smith.
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